Loitering with Intent Essay - Critical Essays

Muriel Spark


In Loitering with Intent, the Autobiographical Association itself suggests a metaphor for the conventional social hierarchy. Certainly, Sir Quentin, who founded the association, worships the conventions of a male-dominated society. One of the most delightful comic notes is sounded when Fleur comments that “only a high rank or a string of titles could bring an orgiastic quiver to his [Quentin’s] face.”

What Fleur does with the autobiographies of the members of the Autobiographical Association expresses one of the central questions of the work: Does art imitate life or does life imitate art? Fleur’s novel Warrender Chase is the provocative center of this controversy. Although this novel is almost finished when she becomes a secretary for the Autobiographical Association, the “real-life” members of that association seem to resemble the fictional characters of the novel. The question arises whether the real-life characters are consciously imitating the fictional ones, since Sir Quentin has been using Fleur’s novel in the revision of their autobiographies. Perhaps fictional characters are mythic (Fleur calls herself a myth-maker) and therefore duplicates of people in real life?

Contributing to the oblique approach to self-expression is Spark’s use of famous literary autobiographies—Apologia pro vita sua by John Henry Newman and Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini. Newman’s searching of his past life to reveal the developments that led to his momentous decision to move from the Anglican to the Roman Catholic faith suggests the conventional approach to autobiography: a rational, psychological chronology of spiritual development....

(The entire section is 696 words.)